mystery The answer to the clues may be found at the bottom of this column.    Teachers and Parents: Enter to win an entire set of Dawn’s nature books of one title for your home or classroom. It's fun and easy!
Just read the clues below. They describe an aspect of nature—a plant, animal, mineral, habitat, or natural process.
When you're ready to make your guess about who or what I am, click ENTER NOW.
Who Am I?
spacerglass1 Clue 1:  I'm a member of the "dog family."
glass1 Clue 2:  I live throughout North America in deserts, prairies, forests, and even in towns and cities.
glass1 Clue 3:  You might hear me howling at night to communicate with my pack.
glass1 Clue 4:  Don't let me trick you—I am NOT a wolf.
Do you think you know who I am? ENTER NOW.
Entries should be submitted no later than noon on Friday.
If you guessed correctly, you’re automatically entered into the monthly drawing for a set of nature books from Dawn Publications.
A contest winner will be announced at the end of September.
Throughout the school year, clues for a new Who Am I are posted no later than Sunday night, so you can use them with your class on Monday morning.Good luck!
The answer to last week's mystery was: SEASHELLS Although Inside Outside Nature blog is changing it's focus, this weekly "Who Am I?" will remain the same! Teachers, click here to get ideas about how to use the contest with your students.  

Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Green 15

Lori Spencer, fourth-grade teacher

Lori Spencer, 4th-grade teacher, the Nevada City School of the Arts


Inspired by naturalist John Muir Laws,  Lori Spencer uses a simple and effective strategy to encourage her class of fourth graders to get outside. It’s called the “Green 15,” which is a weekly homework assignment to spend 15 minutes outside. It doesn’t sound like much time, but it makes a big impact when done regularly.


The requirement for the Green 15 assignment varies each week. Her seasonal fall activities include:

  • Listen for three different bird sounds. (Students didn’t need to identify the birds.)
  • Collect three different leaves and make a rubbing of each one.  (Variation: Collect three different colors of leaves.)
  • Find an animal’s tracks and draw a sketch of what they looked like. (Works best after a rain when tracks can  be more easily seen).
  • Find or rake up a big pile of fallen leaves and play in them. (My personal favorite!)

Lori varies the ways her students “turn in” their Green 15 assignment—sometimes they write about it, but other times they simply check off that they completed it. One student showed he had completed a Green 15 assignment by bringing in a photo of himself perched atop a very tall tree.

INSIDE: Making the Most of the Contest

While talking to Lori about her Green 15, she told me how she incorporates the Who Am I? mystery contest clues into her morning routine.

I have a brainteaser on the board every day, and on Monday mornings it’s always the clues from the Who Am I? contest. I read the clues on Sunday night and write them on the board before the students arrive on Monday morning. The kids read the clues and discuss their guesses. Then I go through the clues one-by-one asking them, “Does your guess fit this clue?” By the time we get through all four clues, some guesses are eliminated. Once we narrow down their choices to those that fit all of the clues, the class votes on the answer they want to submit. I type it up and hit the “submit” button. They were so excited when we won, and I loved the books we got to go along with our water ecology study.

You’ve got one more week to play before October’s drawing. Read the clues in the left column and your students could be the next winners!

OUTSIDE: Nature Prompts

Lori’s idea for the Green 15 was inspired by naturalist John Muir Laws, and she also uses his prompt suggestions to help her students observe more closely and deepen their 15 minutes in nature. These three prompts are applicable to all outdoor experiences: “I notice . . .”, “I wonder . . .”, and “It reminds me of . . .”

Lori Spencer with 4th-grader Riley Powers

Lori Spencer with 4th-grader Riley Powers

Here’s a sample of responses that resulted from standing under a fig tree.

  • I notice that the fig leaves are different colors—some are green and others yellow.
  • I wonder why one side of the leaf is sticky.
  • It reminds me of a hand because of its shape.

For more details about why these prompts are effective for developing skills such as observation, asking questions, and making connections, go to John Muir Laws: Nature Stewardship Through Science, Education, and Art.



John Muir Laws website—Find resources, information, and suggestions for nature journaling with kids, outdoor sketching, inspiration, and much more!

For parents, the book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids by Rebecca Cohen is an inspiring collection of activities gives families an idea for every day of the year, requiring little planning, no expertise and relatively little resources. Some activities are easily adaptable for the classroom.


Nature’s Real Vampires

halloween-graveyardHalloween is just around the corner and you may soon have “vampires” knocking at your door looking for a sweet treat. In your classroom, this is the perfect time of year to introduce your students to some of nature’s real vampires.


Vampires are animals that consume blood as their food. Below are six of nature’s “blood suckers.” Have you seen any of them?

  1. Vampire Bat—This is the only mammal that feeds entirely on blood.
  2. Mosquito—Only the females drink blood, using the protein and iron from the liquid to make their eggs.
  3. Assassin Bug—It injects saliva, containing anti-coagulants, while it sucks up blood.
  4. Leeches—Humans have long (and sometimes misguidedly) depended on leeches for medical purposes.
  5. Bedbug—They disappear during the day (usually into bedding and furniture) and emerge at night to feed.
  6. Tick—These are among the most-feared vampires because they transmit illness, such as Lyme disease, Colorado tick fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  7. Fleas—All of the world’s 2,000-plus flea species subsist on mammal blood.

Source: “Ten Animals that Want to Suck Your Blood” by Simone Scully in Audubon Magazine. Read about more nature’s real vampires.


INSIDE: Into the Bat Cave

imagesOf the world’s more than 1,000 bat species, only three drink blood. These bats are native to South America, Central America, and two Caribbean islands. Most bats eat insects or fruit. These amazing mammals have long been misunderstood! Begin your science study just in time for the Halloween season by immersing students in learning about bats.

OUTSIDE: Bat and Moth

Many bats use echolocation to find their food. Simulate echolocation by playing a game that involves  your entire class. Download complete directions for playing the Bat and Moth Game. Note: It may also be played indoors as long as you have a space large enough to make a circle with all of your students.





Watch a youtube video of the book Stellaluna written by Janell Crannon about a little fruit bat that learns about friendship.


  • Discover facts and photos about vampire bats at National Geographic website.
  • Read The Magic School Bus Going Batty—Ralphie decides Ms. Frizzle is a vampire, and he’s driving the rest of the class batty.
  • A classic story about a bat that sees the world differently from all the other bats is The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell.



Gone Fishing

gone_fishing_signHis grin spread wide across his face as he proudly displayed his big catch. My eight-year-old nephew had just caught a 26 inch Northern Pike in the river that flows by our Michigan cottage.


I definitely agree with the co-author of the Earth Keepers series, Michael J. Caduto when he says:

Children possess an innate connection to wild things in wet places.

My nephew’s afternoon on the river was filled with first-hand science lessons about fresh water habitats, food chains, life cycles, river currents, and respect for all life. Although the most significant lesson for him was that being outside is fun and exciting.

Not every child can go on a fishing adventure, but the books about fishing that I’ve highlighted in this week’s blog will ignite children’s imaginations so they will feel the thrill of goin’ fishin’.

 INSIDE: This is the Sea That Feeds Us

SEA_StoreWritten in verse, This is the Sea that Feeds Us introduces the marine food chain through a little girl who spends a day at the beach. Like waves breaking on the shore, the book’s repeating rhymes delight the ear.

The unsung heroes of this story are the plankton who do one of the biggest jobs in the world. “Nothing would live in the oceans if there were no phytoplankton.”

Using the illustrations in the story, have students create mobiles of the salt water food chain. Find directions for creating simple mobiles here. You may also have your class do the experiment “Salt Water Taste and Freeze” from Keepers of the Earth.

OUTSIDE: Salmon Stream

SALMN_COVERAgainst staggering odds, salmon eggs hatch and grow, travel to the ocean, and eventually struggle upstream to their birthplace again to spawn a new generation. In Salmon Stream the life cycle of salmon unfolds in cumulative verse and children learn, “We need salmon and salmon need us to take care of rivers, oceans, and streams.

Play  Salmon Life Cycle Pantomime outside to give children a kinesthetic experience about what it feels like to be a salmon.

BTW: I’ve just recorded This is the Sea That Feeds Us and Salmon Stream (and several others) for Dawn’s ebook collection. Ask your school or district librarian about how you can access them.


61fqOrdSHsL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Storyteller Brian “Fox” Ellis retells his own fishing experience as a child in The Web at Dragonfly Pond. Along the way he learns, “Inside me is the hum of the dragonfly’s wing, the croak of the frog, and the splah of the large mouth bass.”


ORIV_SHOP-150x150Over in the River delights young children with rhymes, songs, and hidden critters. It also presents information about North American rivers and the animals that live in and around them.